By Mimi Dwyer
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The United States is launching an operation to identify and target human smugglers, the Department of Homeland Security said on Tuesday, as the Biden administration struggles with record numbers of migrants arriving at the southern U.S. border.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that Operation Sentinel would seek to block smugglers' ability to engage in "travel, trade, and finance" in the United States.
The operation will aim to identify smugglers and target their activities by revoking travel documents, suspending trade entities, and freezing financial assets, DHS said.
DHS said smugglers "pose significant dangers to migrants," noting that border patrol agents had found the bodies of 250 migrants who died en route to the United States in fiscal year 2020.
Migrants from Central America and elsewhere often use smugglers to travel to the border and are prone to extortion, kidnapping and other violence.
Roughly 168,000 people were picked up by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the highest monthly tally since March 2001.
(Reporting by Mimi Dwyer in Los Angeles, editing by Ross Colvin and Rosalba O'Brien)